Repost – Blogger – April 8, 2007 & August 11, 2007 – “What the Hell is Wrong With Clay Chastain?” & “More on Clay”

Reposted from Blogger

What the Hell is Wrong With Clay Chastain? – February 7, 2007

More on Clay August 11, 2007

I’m posting these together because they fit a common theme back in 2007. A “local” activist named Clay Chastain spent large amounts of time from his home in Bedford, Virginia campaigning to pass light rail proposals in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. All but one of his proposals failed at the ballot box, with the exception of one in 2006, which was essentially labeled as unfeasible by the city. Since that point, the city has passed a different proposal, and construction of this new light rail system is currently underway, as of April 2014.

What the Hell is Wrong With Clay Chastain? – February 7, 2007

Back in November 2006, voters in Kansas City unexpectedly approved a ballot issue which authorizes a 3/8-cent sales tax to pay for a light rail system. I was surprised that the light rail proposal passed, as several have been offered in the past decade or so, and every single one has not made it past the voters. This one did. Like the previous initiatives, this one was championed by Clay Chastain, a former KC resident and general annoyance.

Apparently, most people didn’t actually read any of the details of the proposal. The tax that was approved to pay for the construction of the system isn’t likely to come close to covering the enormous cost of the project. The proposed route essentially means shutting down Broadway, which may very well cripple traffic in Midtown. The gondolas Chastain wants in Penn Valley Park don’t meet federal guidelines. Due to the fact that the line would cross a bridge owned by the state, and pass through another city (Gladstone), there are many jurisdictional issues. Federal funding will be vital to the success of the light rail system, but there are no guarantees that the money will come.

I am not against the concept of light rail in Kansas City. One of this city’s weakest points is our lackluster public transportation system. A large land area, low population density, and a long local history of auto manufacturing means that we are much more dependent on cars than we should be. The problem is, the plans that Chastain constantly forces down our throats have all been unrealistic and unfeasible. The plan that actually passed is one of the worst yet.

City Manager Wayne Cauthen has stated that there is a need to rework the light rail proposal into something more workable. A tweaked ballot initiative with a shorter route (preferably down Main St. instead of Broadway) and a greater understanding of city infrastructure is required. Almost everybody who has actually studied the plans seems to agree. And yet, Chastain, who isn’t even a resident of the city anymore, is threatening to sue unless the proposal is carried out in exactly the way that he wants it. Is this guy trying to destroy KC? Does he really dislike this town as much as his actions indicate?

This whole situation reminds me of a Simpsons episode, “Marge vs. the Monorail.” In the episode (which was actually a nice homage to “The Music Man”), a huckster from out-of-town named Lyle Lanley shows up at a town meeting with an idea for how to spend a large surplus of money that was recently acquired. He proposes that the town build a monrail for public transportation. He sings, dances, makes the idea sound good, and cons the town into going for it. The monorail itself turns out to be a relic from the 1964 World’s Fair, and is a deathtrap. The entire monorail is a disaster. Does this episode sound familiar? Sly out-of-towner bamboozles town into building a costly public transportation system that has disaster written all over it from day one? Hell, they even both have alliterative names! In all seriousness, the City Council, the Mayor (both outgoing and incoming), and the City Manager should all put their foot down and tell Lyle Lanley, I mean, Clay Chastain, to back off and let us fix the mess he started. One man should not be allowed to wreck Kansas City.

More on Clay  August 11, 2007

Why can’t Clay Chastain just leave us alone? What did we do to him? I was listening to Chastain rant and rave on Steve Kraske’s show on KCUR Friday morning. Clay was argumentative, repetitive, and completely irrational. So one would ask, how is this any different from normal? Truthfully it’s not, but that’s part of the problem.


Chastain spent the interview arguing with the other guests, and hammering the same tired, discredited points over and over again. His light rail plan will cost MUCH more than what he claims. Including inflation (remember, even if his plan did get approved, actual work wouldn’t start for 5 or 6 years), his projected cost for the light rail proposal falls nearly a billion short. Even without inflation, he’s still 500 million short.

So Clay’s not an economist. So? Well, he’s also not much of a civil planner. His idea is to cross the Heart of America bridge and head north to the airport. It has been established by city engineers that the bridge cannot handle the weight of the trains and the infrastructure required to support them. His solution? A stoplight. That’s right, a friggin’ stoplight, to keep cars and trucks off the bridge while the train passes. Yeah, that makes sense. Even though he’s been told that the bridge can’t handle a train with or without cars, he still stubbornly clings to his stoplight idea. Why? Because reinforcing or replacing the bridge would cost at least 60 million.


Let’s see, what else is wrong with his plan? Oh yeah, Broadway. That’s right, Broadway is the main drag he wants the track to take. Businesses on Broadway have all objected to having light rail run down their street. Broadway was not built to handle light rail. Main Street, on the other hand, is. Businesses on Main want light rail. Light rail actually makes more sense on Main than on Broadway. So, of course, Clay wants light rail on Broadway instead. Jeez…

After all of this, Clay still is threatening to sue the city if they decide to propose a new plan. He’s been told that his idea as it stands now is unfeasible. He knows that the current city council and Mayor Funkhouser all want some form of light rail. Why does he have to be so irrational about this? For someone who doesn’t live here, he’s awfully obsessed with messing with the town.


I understand that his proposal did pass. I understand that the voters agreed to it. But I also understand a little common sense is in order. The description on the ballot was long, complicated, and I imagine very few people actually read all of it. The voters also didn’t realize the many errors in planning and funding that the proposal’s architect made. So, I don’t see the problem in throwing out something that simply won’t work, and replacing it with a new, more moderate and sensible proposal. I don’t think it’s undemocratic. The people of Kansas City will still get a chance at light rail. Hopefully though, with a plan that won’t screw up the city. Hopefully crafted by someone with some sense, and without an axe to grind.

Forgive me for constantly ranting about Clay Chastain, but I feel a certain amount of outrage. Here is a man who is hell-bent on spending taxpayer money on unfeasible projects. He’s correct in that Kansas City needs better public transportation. But, spending money that isn’t there for a huge train system that nobody will use is just plain lunacy. I personally think he should be banned from proposing ANYTHING for Kansas City again. Especially considering HE’S NOT A RESIDENT OF KANSAS CITY. I don’t care that he used to live here. He moved away, so he shouldn’t continue to haunt us.


Phew, that feels better…

About hbreck

Writer, debater, contrarian, storyteller, occasional troublemaker. I'm mostly just making things up as I go.
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